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A wealthy reindeer-breeder lived on the seashore. He had no sons, but four daughters, who kept watch over the herd. He had two large herds, and two daughters as herdsmen in each herd. Nearest to him lived an Ai´wan, in a permanent settlement, — a wicked old man, a doer of violence, — because he had five sons. He said to his eldest son, "Go and ask for one of the girls in marriage; and if they refuse, we will take one of their herds." After a while he himself went over to his reindeer-breeding neighbor, and spoke thus: "Well, then, we are neighbors. For quite a long time we have talked to each other. You get your food from your herd, your source of life, and I get mine from man's exertions." — "Yes, that is so!" says the reindeer-breeder. "Would it not, then, be better for us to join forces? You could give over one of your sources of life to your daughter, and keep the other one for yourself." — "All right! I consent." — "You could wander with the reindeer, and some of us would help you. And the others would also stay on the seashore, subsisting on sea-meat. My eldest son and I — we should wander inland along with you, and for the summer-time we should come back to the seashore. If we feel dull, we might visit each other, tasting new food in common." — "All right!" said the reindeer-breeder. He listened to the Ai´wan's words, and consented to act according to his offer. Therefore he gave his youngest daughter in marriage to the Ai´wan's son, along with one herd. Spring came. The reindeer-breeder went away, and the son-in-law remained behind. Then the snow melted, and summer came. The son of the Ai´wan says, "A reindeer-herd is a bad thing. I do not want it. I can live by hunting, killing walrus and whale. Hunting is a joyful pursuit." Therefore with the first snow he wanted to visit the village, and went there, taking the herd along. When he was near the village, he cried, "Oh, tie up the dogs, The herd is coming!" Then the herd also, that was a little behind, came to the village. He said, "Let us slaughter the whole herd! I do not want it. Slaughter the driving-reindeer while still in harness! Let us eat meat!" They began slaughtering. The driving-reindeer were stabbed while still in harness. The ground grew all red with blood. At last they had enough, and cried, "Give a part of this meat to the poor, to those who are starving!"
The woman was sorrowful on account of the herd. Her sisters-in-law took her handsome clothes made of spotted fawn-skins from her. These clothes they put on themselves, and had her clothed in old bad hairless seal-skin. At last she could not suffer it any longer, and left the village by night, taking with her a single reindeer, one of her own driving-team, — a single one, that had escaped being butchered. She led it along behind her, having p. 163 no sledge to drive. It was midwinter, cold and dreary. Travelling was hard, and the snow heavy. Dawn came, and the sun rose. It grew light around her, though the walking was not easier than before. She moved on, leading her reindeer, and plodding through the snow; but in reality she was ascending skywards along a ray of light, because the Upper Being, the Being of the Reindeer people, saw her and knew all about her. His compassion toward the reindeer was very great, because they were slaughtered; and it was his intention to cheer her up after her loss. So she was walking upon the ground under the thick-falling snow, but was moving skyward, though she did not notice it. She was tired and cold, since food there was none, and her clothes were very poor. At last the reindeer spoke in human language. It exclaimed, "Halloo!" She answered, "Halloo!" — "You are quite tired. Mount, at least, upon my back! I will carry you a little onward. I feel sorry for you." She mounted the reindeer, and after a while felt still colder, and also more fatigued and hungry. The reindeer stopped, and scraped the snow with its hoof, as if preparing a place for camping: Then it says, "Halloo!" She answers, "Halloo!" — "At least, eat something! and you will be warmer." She looked down, and saw upon the snow a round place scraped bare. There upon the ground lay something like boiled meat. She ate of it, and felt warm. Then she looked ahead of her, and saw a reindeer-herd. Looking still more attentively, she recognized the reindeer. They were those of her father. Some spotted ones she recognized as her own reindeer. All these were the sacrificed reindeer, those given away, which after that became the reindeer of the Upper Being. Then at last she said, "Whose reindeer are these? They look like the reindeer of my father, but whose camp may this be?" And this was the camp of the Upper Being, of the Deity of the Reindeer people. The Old Being is in his house. His appearance is different from that of men. He has ears on his temples, a big nose, and a broad mouth across his whole face. He says to his daughter, "What kind of a woman is staying there on the outskirts of our camp? Why does she not come over here and enter? Who knows? Perhaps it is the same poor thing whose herd was slaughtered of late by the Ai´wanat, the sedentary dwellers. I saw how the ground grew red with blood. This was a great pity. Go and call her to come along." The daughter of the Upper Being came to the woman, and said, "Friend, why do you not come to the house? Father bade me call you there."
"Well, well! we are entering," cried the girl. The Upper Being looked upon the woman and waved his hand. Even a tear rose to his eye. "Oh, then it is really you! Your poor herd! — But why did your father, being a reindeer-breeder, listen to the words of a sedentary Ai´wan? Oh, how badly they acted toward you!" He drew from the floor near his seat a big stopper. A round hole was revealed in the floor. "Here! look down!" She looked down, and there p. 164 was her father's house. He made her descend through that hole. She walked along, leading her single reindeer. The reindeer spoke again, and said, "When you arrive home, do not accept anointing with blood from their reindeer. Anoint yourself from your own reindeer!" They reached the camp early in the morning. The people in the tents were still sleeping. She sat upon a sledge. She sang aloud, but did not enter the tent. Her mother awoke. "Oh, oh! Why is it that the herdsmen in the herd are so heedless? They yell their songs so loudly, that even here in the camp we cannot sleep." Then she said to a second daughter, "Go out and see what it is! Why are they singing the tunes of that one, the deceased one?" For the Ai´wanat have said that she is dead. At the first meeting they declared that she was gone, and, besides, had taken all the herd. They said that the herd was visited by lameness, became greatly reduced, and then was gone altogether, even to the last reindeer. The daughter went out and looked on. "Who are you, sitting here, clad in old seal-skin? Where do you come from?" — "Where do I come from! After you gave me away to the Ai´wanat, you soon forgot me. You have not even thought of paying me a visit: so I have come to you on a visit." And really how could they have visited her, since the Ai´wanat declared that she was dead? The girl rushed back into the sleeping-room. "Oh," says she, "she is here!" As soon as the father heard it, he jumped out quite naked. "Oh, oh, here you are!" They were quite glad, and laughed all the time. She said, "Do not bring the herd for the anointing-sacrifice. I will anoint from my own reindeer." So they lived on.
In the mean time her recent husband, the Ai´wan, the old man's son, the violence-doer, the slaughterer of reindeer, wanted to visit an island in the bay. He said, "I will go by canoe, taking my long harpoon with me, and maybe I shall land there and stay there for a while." He paddled off, and on the way saw a whale, a very big one. He was going to throw his harpoon at the whale; but the whale drew a breath and pulled him in, and he was soon in the whale's inside, in complete darkness. Oh, it is bad there! He hardly keeps alive, slicing the whale's intestines with his knife, and eating them raw. He defecates also. The bowels of the whale are all covered with filth. The whale rushes from place to place. It is suffering acute pain. Its interior is being cut up. At last the whale died. The wind bore it away to the open sea. It was carried to and fro all the way around the land where live the Ai´wanat, and then it was stranded on the very shore where that reindeer-breeder took up his abode. Then the Ai´wan cut through one of the whale's sides with his knife, and at last got out of it. He looked before him and recognized the houses. "Well," says he in his mind, "what will they do to me when she is dead? Anyway, I am now on firm ground." He walked to the tents. Then he said to the old man, "I was swallowed by a whale, and now I have landed here. I said before, 'At least, here are some strangers' p. 165 houses, and these are our houses.' What though she was struck down by disease and then died, and even took along the herd with her, and it has been reduced by lameness and then destroyed! Notwithstanding all this, I am still yours, as before."
The old man said, "All right! Come in!" He entered the house. The woman concealed herself for a while. They had a meal. All at once the woman appeared. "Here you are, you violence-doer! You slaughtered all my herd quite wantonly. I shall also try to do violence." They caught him, the women only, tore the clothes from his back, pinioned him. Then they cut off all the flesh from his bones, slice by slice. He was still alive. Gradually he lost his force, and died. The end.
Told by Vịyê´nto the Blind, a Maritime Chukchee man, at Mariinsky Post, October, 1900.